Pope and Welby sign joint declaration on shared faith that is broader than any differences

The document signed today states that Catholics and Anglicans want to pursue the search for unity despite "disagreements" on the ordination of women and sexual morality, as well as the “perennial question about how authority is exercised in the Christian community”.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby met on the occasion of 50th anniversary of the meeting between Paul VI and Michael Ramsey, Primate of the Anglican communion, which also saw the establishment of the Anglican Centre in Rome.

In a joint declaration, signed today, the pontiff and the archbishop said that Catholics and Anglicans will go together on the “ecumenical mission towards those who are on the margins of society” to bear witness that their “shared faith and joy in the Gospel” are stronger than any differences they may have, however wide and deep they may be.

Francis and Welby went to the Church of Saints Andrew and Gregory on the Caelian Hill to celebrate Vespers and take part in the signing ceremony. The latter renews the work of the International Anglican-Roman Catholic Commission for Unity and Mission, broadening its scope to some extent to include concrete help for those who are "discarded".

 “It is in sharing the difficulties and joys of the ministry that we once again grow close to each other,” the Pope said in the homily. “May God grant you to be promoters of a bold and real ecumenism, always on a journey in search of opening new paths”.

“It's a great vocation, that which is to work as instruments of communion always and everywhere. This means promoting at the same time the unity of the Christian family and the unity of the human family. The two areas are not only not opposed but are mutually enriching. When, as disciples of Jesus, we offer our services jointly, each opening and the meeting, overcoming the temptation of closures and insulation, we work both at the same time when we work side-by-side, when we promote the unity of Christians as well as that of the human family. We recognize ourselves as brothers who belong to different traditions, but are driven by the same Gospel to undertake the same mission in the world. Then it would be always good, before embarking on any activity, for you to put these questions to yourselves: Why ought not we do this together with our Anglican brothers? Can we bear witness to Jesus by acting together with our Catholic brothers?

The declaration, after mentioning the gesture of Paul VI and Ramsey, noted that “Fifty years later we give thanks for the achievements of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, which has examined historically divisive doctrines from a fresh perspective of mutual respect and charity. Today we give thanks in particular for the documents of ARCIC II which will be appraised by us, and we await the findings of ARCIC III as it navigates new contexts and new challenges to our unity.

“Fifty years ago our predecessors recognized the “serious obstacles” that stood in the way of a restoration of complete faith and sacramental life between us. Nevertheless, they set out undeterred, not knowing what steps could be taken along the way, but in fidelity to the Lord’s prayer that his disciples be one. Much progress has been made concerning many areas that have kept us apart. Yet new circumstances have presented new disagreements among us, particularly regarding the ordination of women and more recent questions regarding human sexuality. Behind these differences lies a perennial question about how authority is exercised in the Christian community. These are today some of the concerns that constitute serious obstacles to our full unity. While, like our predecessors, we ourselves do not yet see solutions to the obstacles before us, we are undeterred. In our trust and joy in the Holy Spirit we are confident that dialogue and engagement with one another will deepen our understanding and help us to discern the mind of Christ for his Church. We trust in God’s grace and providence, knowing that the Holy Spirit will open new doors and lead us into all truth (cf. John 16: 13).

“These differences we have named cannot prevent us from recognizing one another as brothers and sisters in Christ by reason of our common baptism. Nor should they ever hold us back from discovering and rejoicing in the deep Christian faith and holiness we find within each other’s traditions. These differences must not lead to a lessening of our ecumenical endeavours. Christ’s prayer at the Last Supper that all might be one (cf. John 17: 20-23) is as imperative for his disciples today as it was at that moment of his impending passion, death and resurrection, and consequent birth of his Church. Nor should our differences come in the way of our common prayer: not only can we pray together, we must pray together, giving voice to our shared faith and joy in the Gospel of Christ, the ancient Creeds, and the power of God’s love, made present in the Holy Spirit, to overcome all sin and division. And so, with our predecessors, we urge our clergy and faithful not to neglect or undervalue that certain yet imperfect communion that we already share.”